Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Voyager, Season 7: Flesh and Blood

http://www.treknobabble.net/p/rating-system.htmlVoyager, Season 7
Airdate: November 29, 2000
151 of 168 produced
153 of 168 aired


Voyager comes across the results of its decision to share holographic technology with the Hirogen.

Simon Tarses is pissed and he wants revenge...


Matthew: One question for any two-parter or feature length episode (this is the latter) is whether the story justifies such a treatment. I think this one does, for the most part. Yes, questions of the Doctor's autonomy and personality have been asked before, but whether holograms generally should be recognized as sovereign beings really hasn't been done thoroughly. Combining it with the Hirogen hunting holograms, and following up on the Killing Game, ends up making this a full enough story for an hour and a half. Even with the extended run-time, though, this does raise questions that it doesn't explore fully. How much of Iden's megalomania comes from his programming as a Bajoran Vedek? Why was Weiss (AKA Simon Tarses) such an aggro douche? To what degree do nature and nurture act on the personality of a program?I would have liked a deeper exploration of how and why holograms achieve consciousness (it's just sort of hand-waved as "they're based on The Doctor") and what ethical obligations this entails. Are various holograms' violent tendencies a result of their programming by the Hirogen? If so, could they be corrected by ethical lessons? Does Iden feel it is necessary to create as many conscious holograms as possible? Does he want to destroy biological life? Will he create super-AI mecha-snakes and threaten the galaxy with them? Nah, that sounds stupid. Nobody would write that.

Kevin: I agree that the question itself is a valid one, but I think it's a little deflated by the number of times we've done it before in various ways. Part of me is just annoyed that a season later we are still in Hirogen space, but that's a petty complaint. It's a fun follow up on the events of Killing Game, but other outings like Latent Image felt a little more personal to the Doctor's experience. I think what this episode really needed was a clear position on what makes holograms conscious. Even if it were something as direct as creating a number of subroutine interactions equivalent to the number of synapses in the primate brain creates a similar emergent consciousness, as thin as it would be, would anchor where the drama comes from. The problem is that the nature of holo-consciousness flows backwards from what the script already has the holograms doing. Take the 'rescued' holograms. B'Elanna's position is that they can never be more than their programming because the programming itself doesn't allow it. Iden's is that the program is capable of more by virtue of being programming. Imagine a world where we made clones to do our manual labor and programmed their DNA to only create the awareness and capacity of a domestic animal. Does limiting their intelligence means they do not achieve sentience and therefore don't get the rights and privileges of humans or is crafting them that way an act of taking agency from a living being? The episode just needs to pick a position to give the debate some heft.

Matthew: The nuts and bolts of the plot were pretty enjoyable. I've always enjoyed the Hirogen, and they are well represented here. Seeing a Hirogen engineer adds a bit of depth to the culture, as well. I liked the idea of following in a ship's "wake," and I enjoyed the various hunting scenes. If I have problems with the plot, they are with the Doctor's evolution towards a "free holograms" position and with Janeway's hard-ass attitude that precipitates it. Both feel a tad rushed. I would have thought the Doctor would be soured on Iden after being forced to relive a traumatic hunting experience. And after B'Elanna is kidnapped? Come on. The episode would have worked as a "is he with them" mystery. Janeway is also too harsh with the Doctor and his desire to help the holograms. She even changes back to regular thoughtful Janeway by the end. 

Kevin: I think that this episode needs a pass by Ron D. Moore to smooth out the story beats. A little sprinkle of his ability to craft a character-driven political story inside the big sci-fi question would make a lot of these moments just land better on the screen. The stakes and priorities of the characters get a little wobbly, particularly as you say with Janeway. She seems to always get tasked with being the objector who comes around. I think there's a more nuanced story where she starts at least thinking she has come around but finds that in practice, she's not as far as she thought. And again, I think some organic RDM shading on the hologram position would have given Janeway more to bounce off of. 


Matthew: Well, obviously Robert Picardo is the star here. While he is not served by the script in terms of motivations as well as he could be, I certainly believed his emotional journey in the moment. I thought he had some good scenes with Iden, played by Jeff Yagher, who totally fit the bill of "Sexy Vedek," which was such a staple of DS9. I also quite liked Condy Katz as Kejal, and think the episode would have been significantly improved had her character been given greater focus.

Kevin: Katz' Kejal was a highlight for me, too. Yagher's Iden did what was asked of him, but I think the script signaled He Was the Real Villain pretty much from the moment he walked on screen. Picardo was great in each individual scene, but stitched together, it does seem like his motivations veered pretty rapidly.

Matthew: Typically, we are all praise for Kate Mulgrew. This is one of her rare misfires, I think. She wasn't helped by the script, to be sure, but the way she pitched Janeway's intransigence towards the Doctor made it hard to empathize with her position in the episode. Their coda scene was much better, and I wish we had gotten more shades of that earlier on.

Production Values

Matthew: I thought this was for the most part quite excellent from a VFX standpoint. The wooded holographic environment looked good (if a bit backlot), and its transition to giant holodeck was effective. Did it look perfect? No. But it was well conceived. The space ship shots were good, especially the extended looks at the Hirogen aft section. The ship that didn't work for me was the hologram interior. Hirogen aesthetics are Spartan, to be sure, and this is consistent with past shows, but do I have to look at them for such a large chunk of the episode? Throwing the robot from Think Tank in there pulled me out of things, too.

Kevin: Beyond a generic comment that the seams of the green screen were pretty obvious to a modern eye, I agree on the VFX. I also agree that the ship interior wasn't great in terms of something to look at, but I wasn't as bothered by it. I would put this solidly on the positive side of average for this point in the series.


Matthew: All in all, while this "feature length" episode has some nice ambition, I think it did not push for enough from its script. The Doctor didn't really change, and suffered no consequences. I think he should have been punished. And we didn't really learn more about holographic sentience, either. It wasn't boring, and the plot made sense overall. But I don't think it rises above a 3.

Kevin: I think if something had changed for the Doctor, this would have landed at a stronger episode. As is, it's a fairly standard retread of whether the Doctor is a person, set against an admittedly well achieved war story. The major beats of a good story are there, but the connective tissue to make it something special aren't quite there. I agree with the 3, for a total of 6.

No comments:

Post a Comment